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Onehunga School

Onehunga High School, a decile 4 co-educational school, is located in Onehunga (South Central Auckland). Families within our school community vary hugely; many families are economically disadvantaged and currently only budgeting in a limited way. There was a need for more in-depth study of personal finances.

Our approach

Social sciences was an ideal context to teach financial capability as it fitted into The Real Game unit (available from Career Services), which was already used at year 10 in social sciences. The Real Game incorporated the ideas of having incomes, budgeting, and saving for holidays. Lead teachers Rebecca Treston and Tom Webb, along with Chris Harris from the social sciences department, made adaptations to the current unit to incorporate financial capability by adding more complex budgeting as well as ideas of short term and long term savings goals, managing debt, investment, and risk management (in the form of insurance).

Three year 10 social science classes of mixed ability completed a four week unit, which modeled a life journey through our adapted version of The Real Game. Students used a social inquiry approach to develop their understandings about financial capability in an authentic context. We wanted to focus on exploring and developing our values.

We conducted a financial literacy survey with both staff and students to gain baseline data on how financially literate we were as a school. This identified knowledge gaps in the areas of wealth, savings, interest rates, retirement, budgeting, and debt.

Financial capability in the curriculum

Using a social sciences context, we focused on financial values and personal decision making, so students could understand the impact values had on their decisions and how these decisions affected themselves and others.

Learning areas


  • Number and algebra level 5
  • Statistics level 5

Social sciences

  • Resources and economic activities level 5


  • Speaking, writing, and presenting
  • Listening, reading, and viewing

Financial capability matrix of learning outcomes

Managing money and income

  • Money levels 4, 5
  • Income levels 4, 5
  • Saving levels 1–5
  • Credit levels 3–5
  • Spending and budgeting levels 2, 4, 5

Setting goals and planning ahead

Setting financial goals levels 3–5

Identifying and managing risk levels 2–5

Key competencies

Students were able to develop the competencies of 'participating and contributing' through being part of a community in the life experience scenarios of the 'Real Game'.

Students developed the competency of 'managing self' through setting and managing personal budgets, including setting medium and long term goals.


Students were able to explore and value 'diversity' through discussions about how different cultures view financial decisions.

Developing financial capability

Students were each allocated a job and income as part of the Real Game. The classes were divided up into communities of different people and, through the course of the game, encountered different life experiences. These included: being a student, having a baby, and retirement. Students worked through these experiences to discuss and solve problems around the following topics:

  • Life aspirations and goals - based on the wishlist resources provided in the Real Game
  • Money values and money personality - taken from Liz Koh’s book, MoneyPersonality. Students were also given a career and income from the Real Game.

Dealing with money and budgeting – ideas from Liz Koh and Sorted in schools to create a budget outline, which students filled in using their individual income and life aspirations.

What is tax? – students learnt about different types of taxes and filled in an individual payslip.

Saving and investment – saving goals based on Liz Koh's ideas. Students also investigated investment through Sorted in schools.

Credit history – investigated through the use of case studies.

Borrowing – looked at different options for borrowing through the use of wild cards in the Real Game, online research, applying for a loan with the help of a bank manager.

Students also individually investigated different aspects of the financial sector to get information to help them work through the scenarios in the Real Game. They posed questions and gathered information from websites such as Sorted in schools and interest.co.nz. We used experts, such as financial planner Liz Koh’s book Your Money Personality, and the local bank manager who came in and talked to the students about how to get a loan. The students really enjoyed this and became very tough bank managers. There was a research component, where students studied an economic event from history, such as the 1920s Depression or World War Two, and evaluated the effect this had on personal saving, borrowing, and spending of the people at that time. The students were using this knowledge to inform their financial decisions in the game scenarios. They then reflected on how these impacted on them and their communities through discussion.

Working through the life experiences in the Real Game enabled them to explore and analyse their own and other peoples' values and perspectives, and how financial circumstances and events changed these viewpoints. They considered ways in which people make financial decisions, reflecting on and evaluating the understandings they had developed towards money. Having a majority of Pasifika students was a great advantage, as we were able to have many discussions about how different cultures view financial decisions. Students were able to apply their new knowledge to think of strategies to manage these decisions. They reflected with their communities on how these experiences affected them differently.

Students were incredibly motivated by the Real Game and the authentic context of the topic. They were able to discuss experiences from the classroom learning and from real life. For example, one student shared with the class what bankruptcy is and the effects that it has had on his own family. Throughout the unit, students completed a portfolio of work that included reflections on their values and mindsets towards money.

Key competencies

We found key competencies were an integral part of the project. Students participated and contributed within their communities through the life experience scenarios provided in the Real Game. The use of communities within the classroom allowed students to see the effect their financial decisions had on others in their communities. For example, if one student decided not to share a flat, this affected the other flatmates. Students experienced and discussed how different financial values in the community affected people’s decisions. They questioned people’s poor financial decisions, for example, getting into bad debt, and the implications this would have on their community.

Budgeting worked very well as a tool for developing the key competency 'managing self'. There was day-to-day money management and also setting goals for medium and longer term. By setting goals, students saw how achievable they were, and were able to manage themselves successfully. We were then able to use budgets as a good analogy for how students manage their day-to-day lives. In a budget, you have short and long term goals, which relate well to managing yourself day-to-day and also thinking about longer term goals such as careers, life stages, and long term savings, and the implications this has on your income and lifelong aspirations.

Students were able to see the impact that different incomes around the classroom had on financial decisions, and gained an appreciation of what this would mean in a real life setting. In community discussions, people could help others make financial decisions. Students could also discuss why people made their decisions.


At the end of the unit, students produced a portfolio showing all their budgeting, calculations, and reflections. From this, teachers evaluated what financial capability ideas and concepts the students had learnt as well as their values towards money.

The students produced an individual written and oral presentation on an historical economic event. This showed their understanding of financial concepts that they had been taught, and their understanding of factors affecting people’s finances.

At the end of the unit we filmed students sharing what they had learnt and how this had changed their values towards money. Their comments were overwhelmingly positive about what they had learnt. We found the students were critically thinking about money and the decisions they make.

The unit provided plenty of opportunity for the development of literacy skills through:

  • the use of money terminology
  • filling in forms
  • researching information
  • reflections on life stages
  • solving money problems.

There were lots of opportunities for oral communication through discussions in their communities, and the oral presentation.

Numeracy skills were developed through calculating interest and budgeting. Students were able to make connections between what they had learnt in mathematics with what they were doing in the Real Game.

The authentic context of the Real Game made the literacy and numeracy skills relevant to the students and had a big impact on their learning. Students were motivated and had fun, so did the teachers! Walking around the school, you could hear the students using the terminology and energetically passing their knowledge on to other students in the playground. Not only this, students were looking into the future and about the choices they are making today and how this would affect them, motivating them in other subjects. Students who were not in the trial would ask their teachers why they weren’t learning that ‘money stuff’.

"It's good. It's helping my future plans. When I start work I will start Kiwisaver."

Boy, 15 years

"It's started me thinking about what I'm going to do in the future and learning about what to do in the future. One of the good things is that we work together in a group and talk to each other. There are no bad things about it."

Girl, 14 years

"It's positive to be controlling your money. I will be using budgeting as soon as possible. It helped a lot in choosing my (subject) options for next year."

Boy, 14 years

This year we will be using this unit with all our year 10 students and extending some of the ideas into year 9 social sciences, as well as into our senior subjects where students will be involved in the planning of field trips, providing them an understanding of where the money goes.

Resource recommendations

Published on: 20 Nov 2013